The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/17/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
A rare treat this hour—an actual Republican who is currently in office has agreed to be on this show tonight. I‘m so excited. It‘s Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. And he will join us to talk about the stimulus.
There‘s also very scary news out of Pakistan tonight. We will map it out in what I think will either be a really cool, clear, totally understandable way—or we, a total technical train wreck and will, therefore, be inadvertently funny as you laugh at me instead of with me. We will also be joined this hour by the “New Yorker‘s” Jane Mayer. That is all coming up this hour.
But, first, U.S. Army Specialist Brandon Neely was a guard at Guantanamo. He arrived there just before the first prisoners in early 2002. His job at Guantanamo was to guard the prisoners.
He wasn‘t an interrogator. He wasn‘t involved in any intelligence collection. He was just supposed to get prisoner in and out of their cells as necessary, to escort them around the camp.
Specialist Neely was not a witness. He was not a journalist writing about these things. He was not an international observer of some kind. He was a participant in what happened at Guantanamo—which is why his account of conditions there is so remarkable. You have not heard this story before.
You have heard a lot of political jabbering about Guantanamo over the years—much of it prompted by the Pentagon‘s intensive but ultimately failed public relations effort to try to make us think that Guantanamo was something to be proud of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay is proper, it‘s humane, it‘s appropriate. And it is fully consistent with the international conventions.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: You are welcome to go there yourself. Maybe you have. And take a look at the conditions. I urge members of our press corps to go down to Guantanamo and see how they are treated, and to see—and to look at the facts.
RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: They‘re very well-treated down there. They are living in the tropics. They are well-fed. They‘ve got everything they could possibly want. There isn‘t any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we are treating these people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In the tropics.
Tonight, you are going to hear a very different story about Guantanamo from someone who was there. The very second prisoner to get dumped off a bus at the foot at Camp X-ray Guantanamo, the second prisoner to arrive there, was transferred immediately into then Private Brandon Neely‘s custody. What happened next is in part what led Mr. Neely to go public with his story.
He has not been subpoenaed. Nobody is demanding he give this testimony. He‘s doing it because of the callings of his own conscience.
After serving as guard at Guantanamo for the first six months of its existence as a “war on terror” prison camp, Brandon Neely now says that he is ashamed by some of what he did there and he‘s still haunted by some things that he witnessed. Moved by conscience, Mr. Neely has come forward. He came forward first to the University of California at Davis Guantanamo Testimonials Project. He described incidents to them in quite graphic detail. You can read that testimony at our Web site: Rachel.msnbc.com.
And tonight, for the first time in any broadcast interview, he is here exclusively to describe what he witnessed and what he personally took part in.
Joining us now is U.S. Army Specialist Brandon Neely. His service in the Army included guarding prisoners at the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, beginning when the very first prisoners arrived in January 2002. Mr. Neely was honorably discharged from the Army last year, he‘s now president of the Houston chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Brandon Neely, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
SPC. BRANDON NEELY, FMR. GUANTANAMO PRISON GUARD: Thank you very much for having me on the show.
MADDOW: Because you were at Guantanamo from the beginning, you are one of the first—one of the first people we‘ve had a chance to ask what it was like. I was hoping that you could just describe that very first day that the prisoners arrived there. What you were told to expect and what the scene was like when they got brought into the camp?
NEELY: Well, we were just told from the get-go, you know, right after 9/11, the country‘s very upset about what happened. We were just told from the get-go that these were the guys who planned 9/11, that these are the worst people in the world, that the world had to offer and we are fixing to deal with.
The very fist day, I was there, you know, when they first came in. The marines have the Humvees with 50 cals escorting the bus unto the Camp X-ray at the time. And you could really hear a pin drop when the bus has started to come up. Everybody was quiet. Most people were nervous. We didn‘t know what to expect.
I mean, I‘ve never seen a terrorist. I didn‘t know what one would look like. The bus came on and you could hear the marines yelling at them. The next thing you know, the detainees just started coming off the bus, we‘re just picking them up. We were taking them, control of them, and taking them to the in-processing station.
MADDOW: Brandon, you have talked about a physical incident between you and an older prisoner on that very first day that the detainees arrived at Guantanamo. Could you describe what happened with that older man?
NEELY: What happened was we took custody of the man, the detainee, we took him to in-processing situation. We came up in the other side of the tent, me and my escort partner grabbed him and we could tell at that time he was literally shaking. You could you see his hands moving.
He was very tense. He didn‘t want to walk. So, we started screaming at him to walk. We made it over to Alpha block and we put him in his cage. And he was just real nervous, real tense.
We put him on his knees. My partner took off his leg irons and put the leg irons outside. And he was still shaking real bad and he still has his goggles on. My partner went in with the key to take the handcuffs off. He moved away. We started yelling at him, “Don‘t move, don‘t move.”
Interpreter was yelling at him not to move.
My partner went in to take the handcuffs off and when he did, the detainee moved, go straight, real fast to the left. And I was on the left side. And just out of reaction, I slammed him to the ground, I got on top of him. He was trying to get up and the whole time when he was trying to get up, I was holding him down by the head, and couple of seconds later, I was pulled out of the cage by the other soldiers that came to help.
They went ahead and hog-tied him, which he stayed there for—I really couldn‘t tell you how long. But next day, we arrived at the camp. I was walking by and I could see on the side of his—side of his face, he was all scraped up and bruised. And I later learned from other detainees the reason that he moved and he jerked away from us was when we placed him on his knees, he thought we were going to execute him.
MADDOW: Did you witness other incidents of detainees being beaten up or punched, any other sort of physical abuse of prisoners there?
NEELY: Yes. There is another incident. There was an accident on Charlie block, I remember, because I was working in the block. And I happened to be working night shift for about a week or two and I can‘t remember why.
But the medic was making rounds to give out medication, and there was a detainee that was supposed to take Ensure, a lot of them take Ensure because they were very malnutritioned when they showed up. And he just plain refused and this went on for a while. They finally called the internal reaction force. They came in and they briefed them on what was going on. So, me working on the block, went ahead and walked over there to see what was going to happen.
When they got there, they opened the cage. The IRF team went in. They took him down. They cuffed him. They picked him up and cuffed him to the cage. And then medic walked in.
And when the medic walked in, he looked up and saw me. And then he kind of motioned for me to move over to my left a little bit. I didn‘t know what he was doing. So, I would have to move over. So, they were holding him by face and Medic open an Ensure can and started pouring in his mouth. And he wasn‘t taking—the whole Ensure was just running down his face.
So, the medic looked up and the medic struck him one time on the side of the face. And they got out of the cage, put him back on the floor and they left. I turned around. And when I turned around, the first thing I noticed was that the guard tower was directly behind me, so, I, automatically, thought over time that he positioned me in front of that guard tower so they couldn‘t see what he was doing.
MADDOW: So, it was the medic himself that punched the detainee in the face with you in the way so that it couldn‘t be seen from the guard tower?
MADDOW: How much do you think that a lack of structural—lack of instruction, a lack of training about how to deal with prisoners contributed to some of these incidents that you saw that you think are now quite troubling?
NEELY: Well, I think—I think it could be a lot because nobody really knew what was going on. There was no standard operating procedures as far as how a detainee camp was supposed to be run. There was kind of like a trial-and-error period, if this didn‘t work, we‘ll try this way one day—you know, just everyday was something different until they thought it was right.
MADDOW: Why are you talking about this publicly now?
NEELY: You know, I have been to Guantanamo and I have been to Iraq. When you return from places like that, it‘s not just something you just shut off overnight. It‘s just something that you relive every day of your life. It‘s nothing you‘ll forget.
And for me, over time, it just really builds up. And every day I think about it and I relive those situations, and it gets the best of me. And the best way for me to deal with this is speak out. And around December, it just—everything just really hit me. And I just knew I had to talk. I knew I needed to speak about Guantanamo.
MADDOW: Do you think that more people should come forward to tell their stories? Obviously, you think that it has helped you personally. Do you think that it helps the country?
NEELY: I think it does. I think people have the right to know what‘s going on everywhere. You know, this helps me in an aspect to get it out. But, also, you know, you got a lot of detainees that were innocent and had proven innocent. And they are trying to tell their stories and people don‘t believe them.
I think more people do need to speak out because I think the public has the right to know what went really on. You know, whether their time there was positive or negative, the people have a right to know what‘s going on and what happened there.
MADDOW: Brandon Neely was a guard at Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Brandon, thank you for coming on and telling your story publicly. Thank you for spending time telling us about it tonight. I‘ll mention again that you are the head of the Houston chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Brandon, thank you.
NEELY: Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: Brandon Neely told his entire story to the University of California Davis Guantanamo Testimonials Project, which is online and it‘s pretty incredible. If there is anybody else watching this show tonight who was also at Guantanamo, who wants to tell their story, they want to hear from you at UC Davis. You can e-mail them at email@example.com.
Now, like their D.C. colleagues, some Republican governors have been badmouthing the stimulus bill. But do they hate the stimulus bill enough to refuse the stimulus money? Joining us next is Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty who has been deriding the stimulus to everyone who asked. But when the time comes, will he walk away from billions of dollars that are heading to his state courtesy of the stimulus?
Also coming up, a professor at UCLA who thinks he may have found Osama bin Laden. I think I may be just buried the lead, didn‘t I? More on that in just a moment.
MADDOW: This afternoon in Denver, Colorado, President Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill. There are 219 Republican members of the House and Senate – 219 in total. Twenty hundred and sixteen of them voted against this thing and it still became law because the Republicans are a teeny, teeny, tiny, little, bitsy minority in Congress right now.
Beyond the politics, the policy question now is—how fast can this stimulus money gets closed into the economy to do what it‘s economically supposed to do. The state of California, facing insolvency, today has sent notices that 20,000 state jobs were being eliminated. The state of Kansas averted the crisis this afternoon when Republican legislators allowed Governor Kathleen Sebelius to borrow money from elsewhere in the state of Kansas so the state would not bounce its tax refund and payroll checks.
In El Paso County, Colorado, where budget cuts forced the county clerk to layoff 19 staffers, the clerk and recorder‘s office responded to the economic crisis there by directing their staff to not answer the phones anymore—which is handy when you are a county office that, you know, serves people who live in your county who might want to call you. Ahhh! Economically, it is really bad out there.
In Washington, Republicans decided to use the stimulus bill as their chance to say that they stood for something. They want it to be the “Party of No.” And, frankly, senators and members of Congress are not held responsible for state budget problems and layoffs, neither of the state level or the municipal level. There‘s not much political risk to them for having voted no on this thing, particularly because it passed without them.
There is plenty of political risk outside of Washington, say, in the states—which may account for the fact that the Republican governors represent not so much the “Party of No” like their brethren in Washington, but more like the “party of the no” or maybe “the party of uh-oh.”
Florida Governor Charlie Crist and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have huge budget problems, they, along with Jodi Rell of Connecticut and Jim Douglas of Vermont are all for the stimulus.
On the other hand, there are Republican governors like Sarah Palin of Alaska—remember her? Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Rick Perry of Texas—they have been vociferously opposed to the stimulus bill. Which means that, you know, they‘re not going to take the money? Well, not so fast there.
Governor Barbour says that he will look at the plan and decide. Governor Sanford has reportedly looking at it as well and will decide based on the details. Governor Jindal says he will review every program. Governor Perry will take a real close at the package. In other words, they opposed the stimulus bill but they will take the dough. How does that work?
Joining us now is the Republican governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty. Governor Pawlenty, it is very kind of you to make the time to be with us tonight. It‘s hard for us to get Republicans to be on the show. I‘m really glad you‘ve decided to come back to us.
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, ® MINNESOTA: I‘m happy to be here. And you are funny, Rachel.
MADDOW: Oh, thank you. Nice of you to say.
You have a roughly $5 billion budget deficit in Minnesota. It‘s probably going to grow. But I know that you think the stimulus bill is a bad idea. So, that means you are turning down the money, right, Governor?
PAWLENTY: Well, I have concerns about the bill. I think it could have been done better. I was in favor of a stimulus bill, I was disappointed in this one for a variety of reasons.
But in Minnesota‘s case, we are going to accept the money for this reason, Rachel—we pay in for every dollar to the federal government. We get about 72 cents back. We‘re the 46th least receiving state of any state of the nation in terms of federal money.
So, our view is, if you buy the pizza, it‘s OK if you have a slice. It doesn‘t mean you can‘t express concerns about the bill or offer suggestions on how it could have been better.
MADDOW: I think—thinking about this as a pizza would get you to the conclusion that you‘ve ended up with. But I don‘t—my analogy is this. I pay my taxes to support my local police. But it doesn‘t mean that I would buy stuff from a crooked cop that was heisting stuff out of an evidence locker or something. If you are getting offered something that you think you shouldn‘t be offered, you shouldn‘t take it, should you?
PAWLENTY: Well, I think the bill has some positive features in it. My view of it is this. The federal government is spending money they don‘t have, they‘re borrowing it in part from the Chinese—that‘s number one. Number two: it could have been a better targeted bill, a more impactful bill, probably for less money—that‘s number two.
And number three—it was a missed opportunity because, I think, with some modest modifications, it could have been truly bipartisan and lived up to that promise of President Obama. And so, for those reasons, I expressed concern about the bill. I think it could have been done better so the answer isn‘t no, it‘s better.
And, again, when you are paying the tab like Minnesota is, one of the major contributors, subsidizers of the federal government, I don‘t think it‘s untoward for us to accept our share of the money.
MADDOW: Minnesota is in a heck of a financial pickle right now like a lot of states are. What was your backup plan if your congressional delegation had listened to you, had said that this was not good enough to vote for, that if they have voted against it, what if the stimulus bill hadn‘t passed?
PAWLENTY: Well, we had to put our budget together. My budget proposal before the stimulus bill was finalized. So, we purposefully understated the money we‘d be getting from any stimulus bill. So, we only put in about 25 percent or 30 percent of the money we are actually going to receive.
It turns out we are going to receive a multiple of that. But we did that intentionally, Rachel. Understating the amount of money that we would use from any stimulus bill, and turns out we undershot it dramatically.
MADDOW: Did you ask to Senator Klobuchar to vote against this?
PAWLENTY: I did not. Our view of it was that we weren‘t going to lobby the bill other than to express concerns. But I did not tell Senator Klobuchar or anyone else to vote for or against the bill. We didn‘t lobby the bill.
MADDOW: What do you think about Republican governors who did get involved with their congressional delegations on this? I know that Governor Crist in Florida did lobby Senator Martinez, for example, that he should vote for the bill. That was not successful lobbying. That he was quite overt about that. He made it known.
Other Republican governors made noises indicating that they might say no even to the money once it came through. And they lobbied their—they made their positions known to their congressional delegations as well.
What do you think about those strategies?
PAWLENTY: Well, I think different governors have different circumstances and different philosophies and approaches. So, the four governors that you mentioned, they have a different view of it, they felt strongly, I think, in favor of the bill. So that‘s OK. I mean, it‘s a free world. We have a democracy and that‘s why people can express their own views.
But the vast majority of Republicans, obviously, in Congress and that matter, the vast majority of Republican governors had concerns about this bill, but I think, could have been addressed in a bipartisan moment. But, unfortunately, that didn‘t happen.
MADDOW: Do you think that there is a political division between governors and members of Congress in the Republican Party?
PAWLENTY: Well, we have 22 Republican governors and four supported the bill, but I know, it‘s the four that you mentioned. So, the vast majority of Republican governors did not support the bill or at least had concerns about it. I think many governors like me we‘re in favor of a stimulus package. We just thought it could have been done better than this one.
MADDOW: I look for the day that a governor—Republican or Democrat governor says, “I was against this and I‘m not going to take it. I can figure out a way to do it without it.” That will be a truly watershed day for political clarity in this up country.
But in the meantime, your clear statement of your views is going to be the closest we got. Governor Pawlenty, thank you for joining us.
PAWLENTY: Anytime, thank you.
MADDOW: Governor Pawlenty represents Minnesota and I will just say—we ask a lot of Republicans to be on the show and they almost always say no. So, I am particularly grateful whenever anybody says yes. And to any Republicans out there who we ask—see—I‘m not so bad.
Coming up on the show, I‘m going to go truly stupidly hog wild with maps of foreign countries and a geography professor and a crazy theory about how to find Osama bin Laden. No, I‘m not making this up. It‘s coming up, I promise.
MADDOW: In just a moment, I‘m going to flail madly with a math machine that will probably make me look like an idiot. All in the service of introducing on this show a new theory about how bin Laden might get found. Luckily, there is no “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” for this particular type of service to our country.
First, though, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. Getting really, really, really mad at corporate executives who took tons of taxpayer money for their businesses and then still tried to get away with using corporate jets—has been a very therapeutic exercise for us as a country. Remember when the car company executives were ridiculed for flying to Washington in corporate jets for ask for money? It was indignation palooza on Capitol Hill. On their next trip to Washington the CEOs of Ford, G.M. and Chrysler drove hybrid cars.
And after Citigroup ordered $42 million corporate jet even as they took billions from the government bailout, the entire country blew its collective stack. Unflappable President Obama sort of flapped himself. And then last week, the CEO of Citigroup said ordering that jet was a mistake and delivery had been canceled.
But you know who, so far, has been spared the populist wrath? How about the Drug Enforcement Agency—the DEA? You know, the DEA has an aviation division. They have 106 planes of their own. But that did not stop them—last fall, while we were all collectively outraged, the bailout money would finance corporate travel, they paid $123,000 of our money to charter a private jet to fly their acting director, Michelle Leonhart to Colombia.
Did I mention that the DEA has 106 planes of their own? William Brown, who runs the DEA aviation division, said, “Was it excessive? I guess you could look at it that way.”
You know, I spent 45 seconds online today and I found a round-tip from New York to Bogota for $410. You spent $123,000 on the same trip—our dollars. Yes. Excessive—I guess I do look at it that way.
And well around the subject of excessive, before we have even truly have come to understand the billionaire bilking that is Bernie Madoff, it looks like we may be on to mini-Madoff. The SEC today charged Robert Allen Stanford, a Texas billionaire who ran a private investment firm, in an alleged multibillion dollar fraud scheme. Sir Allen allegedly promised returns of more than double the national average, orchestrating a fraudulent $8 billion investment program.
By the way, that “sir” thing, Sir Allen Stanford claims he was presented with a knighthood from his royal highness, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. Actually, his knighthood was presented to Mr. Stanford by the prime minister of Antigua at a time when that prince guy just happened to be on the same island.
It‘s kind of like buying a fake Rolex on Sixth Avenue at the same time the president of Rolex and is also in New York. Still a fake Rolex no matter where the authority guy is near you. Right.
Sir Stanford has claimed that he‘s also a blood relative of the founder of Stanford University—Leland Stanford. They have same last name and all. Sir Stanford even donated $2.5 million to help rehabilitate the Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park in California. However, Stanford University denies that there is any link between their school and this guy. They‘ve actually sued him for using a symbol similar to the school‘s logo.
And did I mention that Mr. Stanford loves cricket? Last year, he sponsored a $20 million winner-takes-all series between the West Indies and England at his own personal cricket stadium in Antigua.
According to the BBC, Sir Allen created controversy after he was seen sitting with the wives of British cricket players on his lap. He had one player‘s pregnant wife sitting on his lap in one image. He later issued an apology. I‘m guessing he didn‘t mean the apology.
MADDOW: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is still in Japan though the turn toward her next stop on this first overseas trip has already begun. After meeting the empress of Japan in a slightly less super-bad overcoat than yesterday‘s amazing matrix-worthy number, Secretary Clinton held a town hall-like meeting at Tokyo University today.
There, in preparation for the next stop on her trip, Indonesia, she told the crowd that the Obama administration would make a, quote, “concerted effort to restore the image of the United States in Islamic world.” She said the U.S. will seek to, quote, “enlist the help of Muslims around the world against the extremists.”
Indonesia is, of course, the world‘s most populous Muslim nation.
Her traveling there on the first trip abroad is a big deal diplomatically. And given what just happened in the world‘s second most populous Muslim nation, Pakistan, big diplomatic deals seem particularly important right now.
In order to grasp what just happened in Pakistan, we are going the need to call in the big cognitive guns here. The weapons of mass explanation. Maps. Yay. Forgive my inevitable bumbling here, but this is important.
All right. Here is Afghanistan, right? And here is Pakistan, right? Afghanistan is where we‘ve already got- whoops - where we‘ve got 33,000 U.S. troops. President Obama today described the situation in Afghanistan as deteriorating. He OK‘d a request for more than 10,000 more U.S. troops going to be there in Afghanistan.
They will deploy its Marines and soldiers. They‘ll deploy this spring and summer. Now, when we talk about Afghanistan and Pakistan, we talk about them together, right? We talk again and again about these dangerous border areas, the tribal areas.
This is a familiar map, right? The caption in your head on this map is something like, “Talibanistan.” Maybe this is where Osama Bin Laden is.
Here is what is so scary about what has just happened in Pakistan. What just happened in Pakistan wasn‘t here. It wasn‘t in “Talibanistan.” It wasn‘t in the border area. Instead, it was here. It was up here in Swat.
This is where the Taliban fought the government into an agreement to institute Islamic law. Not in the ungovernable tribal areas along the Afghan border, but in this area up here, up in the mountains, right?
There was an area that was once known as the Switzerland of Pakistan. It is the Swat Valley. It was once a tourist destination because it is considered to be so pretty up there. Well, now the Pakistani Taliban - they are essentially in control of Swat.
Just so you know, Swat is only about 100 miles from - what‘s this? Oh, yes. That‘s the capital of Pakistan. That‘s Islamabad. And maybe this is a bad time to mention that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Madam Secretary, any comment on this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I want to get the whole picture of what it is they are attempting to achieve. There were, as I said, some contradictory communications from the government as to what was really going on. And we want to sort that out before we say anything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has to be a concern.
H. CLINTON: Well, the entire situation in Pakistan is a concern.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, to say the least. Britain is also expressing its concern. A senior U.S. Defense Department official describes this as a negative development. NATO, for the rather fine point on it, a spokesman saying that this offers Islamic extremists a safe haven. Safe haven for Islamic militant extremists in South Central Asia. Why is this sounding horribly familiar?
We haven‘t even caught bin laden yet in the aftermath of what happened the last time these guys had safe haven in that part of the world.
Joining us now is a man who had something to say about the Bin Laden issue, a man who is much better with maps than I am, a man who was trained in using geographic analysis to find hard to find stuff like, say, endangered bird species, and maybe, now, the head of al-Qaeda.
Thomas Gillespie is a professor in the Department of Geology at UCLA. Professor Gillespie, thank you so much for joining us.
THOMAS GILLESPIE, PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF GEOGRAPHY, UNIVERSITY OF
CALIFORNIA IN LOS ANGELES: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: You have used geographic analysis to predict that Osama Bin Laden might be in one of three specific compounds and one specific city and one specific country. In order to tell us how you got to that finding, can you explain how your modeling works?
GILLESPIE: Yes. Certainly. Well, to start off, if you are looking for anything, be it an endangered species or a person, you really have to approach the question at different spatial scales, at a global scale, a regional scale, and a local scale.
And here, we have a nice image of a global spatial scale. So what we did was basically - we had to find information on his last known location, which all we have is Tora Bora in 2001. So that‘s how we begin the process.
And then we add some theory based on biogeography, or the distribution of life which is called Distance Decay Theory which means the farther you go away from that one point, the more likely it is you won‘t find a similar species composition, or in the case of humans, people that have the same beliefs or language and so forth.
MADDOW: So your last data point is 2001 in Tora Bora. I‘m assuming that means that if you had any further data after Tora Bora, your model would be that much more precise.
GILLESPIE: Yes. And you know, we do have a model that can be
updated. It is standard and repeatable like any other in science. So any
the more up-to-date the information, the more accurate the model would be.
MADDOW: What are the assumptions that you made here about Bin Laden? You had the data pointing to Tora Bora in 2001. What were the other things that helped you narrow it down, about his needs, about the limiting places that he might not be?
GILLESPIE: Well, yes. Well, at a global spatial scale, I mean, you can ask the question, did he turn around and go back into Afghanistan, which seems kind of unlikely. But actually, as you go into a regional scale, that‘s where you really kind of tease out the question of where he hypothetically might be.
And here we have an image - it is a nightlight image that‘s taken at night in 2007. And you can see the small city of Kabul on the left-hand side and then Peshawar and Pakistan on the right there.
And then if you look in the federal tribal areas which are outlined there, you can see some small cities. But our theory is basically based on this, that extinction is lower in large towns. So if he actually lived in a small town that can be easily monitored, searched, or people can spread information on him, it is just not very likely that he would be in a small town, and that‘s one of our major assumptions.
MADDOW: So you essentially assume that he would have to be in large-enough city that he could preserve some sort of element of not being seen.
GILLESPIE: Yes. And if you think about - yes. And the theory is called Island Biogeography which looks at rates of extinction and the size of a habitat which is like a city island.
MADDOW: How else do you narrow done, once you figure out what size city he might be, in what region? How do you get more specific than that?
GILLESPIE: Well, in this image here, what you have is his last known location which, you can see, is not very far from a city right over the border of Pakistan. And the city is called Parachinar. It is the large red dot there in which you can see it is the largest city in the region.
And then, you know, we pulled back from that last image. The only other large cities were Kabul and Peshawar. So this is kind of suggesting that closest to his last known location, the city will have a high probability of housing him, under the theory that, of course, extinction would be higher in a very small area.
MADDOW: Now, what else about that city is useful in terms much finding where he might be? What else do you need to know about what kind of place he could be hiding in?
GILLESPIE: Well, that‘s a great question. Once you get to this point we have a city picked out, the next thing is we use life history characteristics of Osama Bin Laden to figure out a structure that matches his life history characteristic.
So for instance, the man is 6‘4”. Obviously, we have to look for buildings over 6‘4”. He needs electricity for dialysis machine. We selected buildings within Parachinar that had electricity.
We looked at things like protective structures so you can see on this one, there is a wall around it. You can actually see turrets on this one.
And then, we looked to other things like privacy. And in general, finally, we looked for - you know, there has to be a tree. Because if he goes outside, I‘m sure his positive that people can look down on him. So when you apply these life history characteristics for every building in the city of Parachinar, three popped out as being, you know, places where, hypothetically, he could be. And this proposes a hypothesis that can be tested and rejected.
MADDOW: In terms of testing the hypothesis, anybody in Pakistan reading your study and knocking on the door of any of these buildings since this came out?
GILLESPIE: Well, that‘s a good question. I guess they have a chance to win $25 million if they do go in there and take a look.
MADDOW: Good point.
GILLESPIE: I don‘t know what the per capita income is there. But you know, it is in the federal tribal area. And obviously, you look at any Let‘s Go guide or travel, it‘s very difficult for most people to go travel there.
MADDOW: Any response from the CIA or any other U.S. Government agency?
GILLESPIE: Well, you know what? I‘m a geographer, so what we do is you know, we kind of feed the CIA students who come through our school.
But no, you know, most of my work is really academic and before we submitted this to a journal, we did - you know, we went to the Web site and submitted it to the FBI as instructed by the Web site. But that‘s about the extent of it.
MADDOW: One last question for you. I know you did a study of the lights in the night sky leading up to the surge in Iraq. Can I just ask you really quickly what the purpose of that was and what you found?
GILLESPIE: Well, that one is very easy. Basically, we just looked at nightlight imagery before the surge and after the surge under the hypothesis that if the surge had worked, the nightlight should increase as the quality of life increases.
But what we found out basically was the lights actually went down after the surge. And even before it started, there had already been ethnic cleansing in a lot of the neighborhoods in the south and in the north.
MADDOW: Professor Thomas Gillespie of UCLA, single-handedly making geography cocktail-party conversation across the country right now. Thank you so much, sir.
GILLESPIE: Thank you so much for your time.
MADDOW: The study about Osama Bin Laden was published online today by the MIT International Review.
OK. Coming up next Jane Mayer from “The New Yorker” magazine will be here on a really big issue the Obama administration has to make a decision on in the next month. It is a really big “who are we as a country” decision about which no one knows what Obama is going to do. I‘m worried Obama is going to do the same thing that Bush and Cheney did about this decision. But then, I always worry about that. We will “Scrub, Rinse, Repeat” with Jane Mayer from “The New Yorker” when we return.
MADDOW: There is man being held at a prison in the United States who has been there for seven years, much of that time in pure isolation. He has never been charged with anything. He has never been convicted of anything.
His name Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, and he is in prison in South Carolina. He is in a naval brig there. On September 10th, 2001, the day before 9/11, al-Marri, who is a citizen of Qatar - he came to America with his family, with his wife and his kids. He had a student visa. He said he was here to study computer programming at a university in Peoria, Illinois.
That December, a couple months after 9/11, he was arrested as a material witness in the 9/11 attacks. Now, in June 2003, Mr. al-Marri was supposed to stand trial. But President Bush ordered the military at the last minute to seize him and hold him indefinitely, thus keeping Mr. al-Marri out of court but also putting him into legal limbo.
Since then, he has been the only prisoner in the 80-bed, high-security wing of the U.S. Naval brig in Charleston. Literally, it‘s an 80-bed wing. He is the only dude in it.
Mr. al-Marri maintains his innocence. He has never confessed to anything despite enduring so-called enhanced interrogation. In a new article in “The New Yorker,” Mr. al-Marri has spoken out publicly for the first time since his arrest. He said through his lawyers, quote, “I am not asking to be taken at my word and to be released. All I am asking for is to be treated like every other person in the United States who is accused of a crime, including terrorism, and to be given a fair trial in an American court.”
Unless the Obama administration overhauls the nation‘s terrorism policies, Mr. al-Marri could spend the rest of his life in prison even if he never gets a trial. That‘s what the enemy combatant designation means.
The Republican line on the Obama administration and national security has been that even though Obama campaigned against Bush‘s national security policies, he would end up adopting them himself once he was in office. It is a way of saying politically that Bush‘s policies really weren‘t so bad, they were necessary.
Former attorney General John Ashcroft, for example, told Jane Mayer of the New Yorker shortly before the inauguration, quote, “How will he be different? The main difference is going to be that he spells his name O-B-A-M-A, not B-U-S-H.”
Mr. al-Marri‘s case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court in April. How will the Obama administration treat this case?
Joining us now is Jane Mayer, staff writer for “The New Yorker” whose article on the al-Marri case is in the magazine‘s current issue. She‘s also the author of the seminal book, “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War of American Ideals.”
Ms. Mayer, thanks you so much for coming on the show tonight.
JANE MAYER, STAFF WRITER, “THE NEW YORKER” MAGAZINE: Well, great to be with you. Thanks.
MADDOW: Did I accurately describe what has happened since Mr. al-Marri was arrested?
MAYER: Really well.
MADDOW: Oh, thank you.
MAYER: Very, very well. Yes. It‘s a complicated case but it is kind of amazing that he‘s been there for seven years without a trial and without being charged. So, yes.
And we‘ve called it in “The New Yorker” Obama‘s terror test. It‘s really going to test what Obama does now and whether or not he will be different from George Bush.
MADDOW: Well, when Bush, in June 2003, ordered the military to seize
Mr. al-Marri, that put him in military detention. It kept him out of
court. What were the other implications of that though? Did that somehow
did that essentially teach us with the enemy combatant designation really could be used for? Did that do anything else legally?
MAYER: Well, one of the things this case is going to test is basically when the president did that, he said that anybody can be an enemy combatant, even somebody who is an American resident or a legal resident in America like al-Marri was or citizen even.
An enemy combatant is anybody who supports the Taliban or al-Qaeda or supports an organization that supports them or even gives money to an organization that eventually goes to them without knowing that the money is going there.
They gave this in a court case, just one of the explanations of what an enemy combatant is. So it‘s a very, very broad category. The president gets to decide who is an enemy combatant. And if you are an enemy combatant, you can be held in executive detention indefinitely until the end of the war on terror, which of course is a complicated notion because nobody has really defined what the end of the war on terror will be.
MADDOW: So if you are Barack Obama and you believe that it is not possible under American law - under American law that an American president can seize the right to take anybody off the street at any moment, incarcerate them for the rest of their lives without trial, without charges.
If you, as Barack Obama, believe that, are your options either, A, end the war on terror, or, B, move al-Marri into some sort of different kind of detention?
MAYER: Well, no. I mean, the options are - one of them is just to take the case of al-Marri. They can charge him with a crime. They can send him home to Qatar where he is from. Or they can continue to hold him some way as an enemy combatant.
And they can either argue the side of the Bush administration in front of the Supreme Court in April, or they can just drop this case somehow, come to some kind of plea agreement, get rid of it and charge him as a criminal.
I actually think - I heard your introduction, I actually think that they probably are looking for a way out of this. And if they possibly can, they will charge him with a crime or come up with some kind of plea agreement.
But it creates a terrible dilemma because the Bush administration said he‘s a very dangerous man. And Barack Obama does not want to let somebody out who might actually be a member of al-Qaeda who might have been planning a second major attack on America.
So they are trying to figure out how to negotiate this without undermining American values and our legal system.
MADDOW: Jane Mayer is a staff writer for “The New Yorker,” author of the book “The Dark Side.” This is incredibly important stuff for the country for all of us. Thank you for your time tonight. Thanks.
MAYER: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN” two Palin mothers reach the same conclusion, abstinence doesn‘t work.
Next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones. At a press conference today, Alex Rodriguez says he used steroids because he was young and stupid. So I guess that clears everything up, right?
MADDOW: Now, it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend Kent Jones.
Hi, Kent. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. Well, this afternoon in Tampa, a contrite Alex Rodriguez fessed up to taking performance-enhancing drugs, saying his cousin injected him with an over-the-counter substance to give him that extra edge.
While A-Rod gave that time-honored “I was young and stupid” defense, he also said he knew what he was taking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX RODRIGUEZ, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER: I knew we weren‘t taking Tic Tacs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Not Tic Tacs. You know, for one thing, you can‘t inject Tic Tacs into your hip. Learned that one the hard way.
Next, speaking of pharmaceuticals, a Dutch study found that a widely-available blood pressure pill could someday help people erase bad memories. The beta-blocker propranolol significantly weakened fearful memories of spiders among a group of healthy volunteers who took the drug.
The downside? People who take the bad-memory erase are liable to vote for anyone year. What recession?
JONES: Next, the French Spiderman, Alain Robert, was at it again today, scrambling up on the side of one of Hong Kong‘s tallest buildings, a 62-story skyscraper.
Robert unfurled a bright yellow banner as he climbed, advertising a Web site, “100months.org” which is counting down the number of months left to save the planet from global warming.
JONES: Let me tell you, Alain. You screw up one of these stunts and global warming will no longer be your number one problem.
Finally, in England, a train station has put up this “no kissing” sign. Men in hats, women in curlers - this means you. Officially, officials were worried that couples kissing each other goodbye in front of the station was causing traffic to back up.
Plus, you know the English - once they turn on the heat, they could be at it all day. Nigel, Hermione, get a room. All right. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent.
MADDOW: Thank you. I have cocktail moment for you.
JONES: Cocktail time.
MADDOW: Cocktail moment. In the Colorado Senate race this year, it was former congressman Bob Schaffer against Mark Udall - the Democrat Mark Udall.
MADDOW: One Bob Schaffer lost.
MADDOW: Schaffer made the show - at least made the radio show. I remember talking about the fact that he had run an ad, talking about how Colorado was his life and how he proposed to his wife on Pike‘s Peak. But the picture behind him was not Pike‘s Peak. It was something from Alaska, Mt. McKinley.
Now, he‘s finally - and that was embarrassing because he is from Ohio. He‘s not even from Colorado. Now, he is selling something called Coyote Gold.
JONES: Coyote Gold? Look at that.
MADDOW: I thought it was deer repellant because of the name of it, and I felt really sad like it was (inaudible) thing, you know. It turns out it is margarita mix.
JONES: I don‘t see the deer being repelled by that, personally. Come right up to the house.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Good night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.>
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>